no running this morning, but instead i walked to harvard square to mail off payments for my COBRA coverage and life insurance policy. it was cold, 22 degrees without the wind chill factor, i could feel my fingers freezing underneath my gloves. the walk did warm me up however, and by the time i walked back home i had already taken off my hat and gloves. after the post office (where i bought some out-of-season 37 cents christmas stamps), i briefly stopped in at wordsworth. did that bookstore shrink, and when did they get so sparse with their inventory? the side upstairs that used to be all non-fiction books is now a function room for book lectures. the items i was looking for, 2 computer books, 1 cookbook, and 1 novel, they were all out. coming home i followed the silhouette of my shadow on the ground, glad to be back in someplace warm.

the next order of business was to call the unemployment office and ask them what was up with my benefits. looks like i'm on the extension now, life expectancy of 13 weeks. the woman i talked to on the phone sounded annoyed, but when she realized what i was asking her was pretty simple, she became friendly.

after finding a recipe in the cookbook of what i want to eat for dinner tonight (beef barley soup), i wrote down the ingredients and went next door to star market to do some grocery shopping. it was in the middle of the day, the place was mostly housewives pushing shopping carts or other young people like myself, seemingly focused on food buying. i checked out, the guy behind the register someone i recognized from the many times i've been frequenting this star market. he's the super knowledgeable, super fast, super friendly cashier who wears a knitted cap and hums to himself while he laser-reads my items. i bought a few things that he wasn't able to get a price on, he just asked how much i thought they were, and he punched it in. i was honest though, i didn't try to sneak in a few bargains for myself.

i came home and put away the groceries, leaving the ingredients for tonight's recipe out on the counter. lunch was just cereal with a few microwave cooked sausages. the day went fast after that, the hours quickly ticking away, until it was time for dinner. i still had some marinated beef left over from last week. i couldn't find bay leaves, but i figured i could do without them. i couldn't find actual barley, but i thought i could use basmati rice instead. i threw in the whole canned tomatoes, beef broth, water, garlic, sugar, thyme, and pepper into a pot. the recipe called for a quarter cup of barley, so i put in a quarter cup of rice, but because i wanted more rice, i ended up putting in another whole cup of rice into the pot. this was a mistake, as we shall soon see. when the stew came to a boil, i tossed in the beef, carrots, mushrooms, and pearl onions. the recipe called for frozen pearl onions, but i got fresh ones instead, which didn't quite work because it was impossible to peel them. i did the best i could, threw them in, and let everything simmer on low-medium heat. the greenish onions looked pretty floating in the reddish soup. when i came back 25 minutes later to see the progress, the rice had basically taken over, there was more rice than soup. i had to add a cup of water to balance everything out. lesson learned: never underestimate the sponge-like property of rice! i ate a bowl and half of this beefy rice with a plate of salad, putting away the rest of it in the fridge in a tupperware container.

tuesday nights mean two things: gilmore girls followed by 24. i watched the gilmore girls while eating some vanilla ice cream, then 24 feeding on rice crackers. gilmore girls, jess is starting to look like a real asshole, and i think the storyline is setting the stage for rory to get back together with dean, while the WB network spins jess his own series. 24, i felt like somebody set my world on fire! it'll be painful next week, when there won't be a new episode to watch.

last night i watched this documentary on HBO, "the smashing machine," about mark kerr, a no-holds-barred fighter. it was really interesting, once i started watching i couldn't turn away. when you're in that business of demolishing other guys in a ring for a living, what does it do to you mentally, apart from the physical damages? i've seen some no-holds-barred fights on PPV, and that kind of blood lust is, for lack of a better word, addictive. just seeing something so raw, so brutal, so violent, it's hard to not watch.

joel's right, ELO's "mr.blue sky" is a catchy song! the structure is weird, featuring robot voices and choir singing, but it seems to work.